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Sunday, 19 May 2019 18:38

Oversubscription and Vacancies in Kent Primary Schools, 2019


Dover, Deal and Sandwich
As usual, there are few problems anywhere across the District, with a 13% vacancy rate. In Dover, there is just one significantly oversubscribed school out of 20, St Martin’s turning away 12 first choices. Next comes Capel-Le Ferne with seven. Over half of the 21 schools have vacancies, all fewer than a third empty.

In Deal and Sandwich, where there are a large number of rural schools, again over half the 19 schools have vacancies, Goodnestone having 5 of its ten places empty, for the second consecutive year, and Sandwich Infants 38%. St Mary’s Catholic School tops the oversubscription list of seven schools, turning away just 8 disappointed first choices.

The more important news is the mass conversion of Deal and Walmer primary schools to become Academies, in a single Multi Academy Trust, the Deal Education Alliance for Learning Trust (DEALT) in spite of considerable local opposition, as explained here in an article where I applauded the proposal. The seven schools are: Deal Parochial CofE; Hornbeam; Kingsdown and Ringwould CofE (Ofsted Outstadning, the other six are all Good); Northbourne CofE; Sandown; Sholden CofE; and The Downs CofE.  The other two local primary schools are already academies.

The nine Faversham schools are suffering from a lack of pupils with just two nine schools filled and a total of 33% vacant desks. Six of the schools have a single form of entry. Most popular is St Mary of Charity CofE, in Special Measures under KCC a few years back, but now achieved Good under the Diocese of Canterbury Aquila Trust, and with excellent KS2 results, turning away 10 first choices. The other oversubscribed school is Ethelbert Road (6) still benefiting from its Outstanding Ofsted of 2014.

For unfathomable reasons, KCC doubled the Published Admission Number for Bysing Wood to 60 in 2017 and has kept it there, resulting in a 75% vacancy rate this year, the highest in the county along with two other schools. Graveney, a standalone academy witha PAN of 15, has made just six offers and one wonders how much longer such a small moderately performing school can operate on its own. Luddenham also has over 50% vacancies.

Folkestone and Hythe
The headline for Folkestone  schools is clearly yet another failure by the two primary Turner Schools, a PR organisation that has occupied many pages on this site, most recently here, and also here. Morehall has 75% of its 60 places empty, the joint highest percentage in Kent, and Martello with 63%, the ninth highest. In spite of the repeated claims by Turner Schools, Last year, Turner tried to hide the fall in numbers at these two schools the previous year, along withe Folkestone Academy secondary by refusing to provide the relevant census numbers. They made my complaint to the Information Commissioner more difficult by falsely claiming they did not have to carry out an Internal Review, part of the process of complaint. Not only were they forced to disgorge the information proving my allegation, they have now had to re-institute the Internal Review process.  
Morehall’s KS2 results were poor: percentage of pupils reaching expected standard 46% (Kent average 64%), Reading – Well Below Average; Maths – Below Average, with only writing Average. Martello, a new school which has not yet grown up to KS2 age level, had the second highest Exclusion rate in the county last year, with 25% of pupils being excluded for a fixed term, apparently to ‘set high standards of behaviour’, contrary to the Trust view that a high exclusion rate is a sign of poor teaching.Turner Schools also run the primary section of the all-through Folkestone Academy which has been highly successful since long before TS took over, it being Ofsted Outstanding before merging with the secondary section, and appears to have been allowed to run in its own way without significant interference. It has decided to offer 12 additional places above the PAN of 60, which won't have helped the others.

Just one of the 18 town schools, Sandgate is significantly oversubscribed turning down 14 first choices (most recent full Ofsted inspection was in 2007, when the school was found Outstanding), with Christ Church CofE second with eight, benefiting from its excellent KS2 results in 2018. Five other town schools had vacancies, most at Mundella with 40% empty spaces.

In the whole of Hythe and the rural parts of the District, just one of the 19 schools is oversubscribed, Saltwood, oversubscribed by four first choices. 13 schools did not fill, with Brenzett once again 75% vacancies, or 15 of its 20 places. The school’s most recent Ofsted placed it in Special Measures. It was then taken over by Aquila, the Diocese of Canterbury Academy Trust, which has a good record in turning round schools notably at Reculver and St Mary of Charity. Both of these were in Special Measures under KCC but Outstanding after academisation. Dymchurch (44%) had been in SM back in 2010, but under KCC was turned around with two Good Ofsted's in short order, before converting to join The Village Academy Trust, under whom it fell back to Requires Improvement.  Lydd,  with 42% vacancies and a dire history, including Special Measures under KCC, has also been taken over by The Village Academy Trust It will clearly take time to restore confidence in these three schools. 

The only area in town under pressure is Northfleet, where KCC oddly persuaded sponsors to pull out of a planned new school in the expanding area of Ebbsfleet in 2018, on the grounds it was not needed. They also did exactly the same once before arguing that a new school in the area would place the struggling Dover Road School (now Copperfield Academy) in jeopardy, resulting in a shortage of places. For 2019, Copperfield has been kept with a PAN of 90 but has gone from bad to worse, having been warned by a critical Ofsted Monitoring Report in October 2017, making clear it had been failed by its sponsors, the Reach 2 Academy Trust. The Trust has ignored the warning over the past 18 months  and as a result was placed in Special Measures in March, unsurprising given in addition its appalling KS2 results, including no pupils achieving at a higher standard. . Its intake for 2019 has dropped to 51 children including 14 LAAs, from 65 in 2018. There are just six unfilled places in the other seven Northfleet schools. Four are significantly oversubscribed with first choices: St Joseph’s Catholic (27); St Botolph’s CofE (17); Cecil Road and Lawn (12 each).

Meanwhile in Gravesend, where there is no shortage of places, St George’s CofE has been allowed to open a Primary section, admitting 30 children and contributing to the loss in six other schools of a total of 51 pupils, including nearby Whitehill losing 10 from a school recently oversubscribed. Also in 2018 Singlewell, which has three vacancies, was oversubscribed by 21 first choices in a typical year. To compound this problem, St George’s has been given permission to advertise for Year One pupils for September, who will be drawn directly out of other local schools, damaging their plans for the year. Just two schools are oversubscribed, with 19 at St John’s Catholic.

Just one of the seven village schools has vacancies, Vigo Village School at the far end of the Borough with 9 empty spaces. Istead Rise has overcome its previous horrors, and its Good Ofsted gained under new Sponsors Swale Academy Trust, sees it full for the first time on many years. Elsewhere there is a considerable shift in popularity. Cobham, for some years one of the most oversubscribed schools in the county, is down to 10 disappointed first choices (from 21 in 2018 and 35 in 2017), although 2018 KS2 results are amongst the best in Kent, including highest proportion of pupils achieving at a higher standard. Higham is down from 11 to one oversubscribed, whilst travelling in the other direction Meopham which had eight vacancies in 2018, is 11 first choices oversubscribed.

There are just four out of the 25 schools in the town with vacancies, for the second year running, although Molehill has only filled by virtue of its 26 LAAs. It has expanded by 15 places to accommodate these, with last year’s Good Ofsted apparently having failed to convince. The two schools with 10 vacancies each, Palace Wood (Good at last) and Tree Tops (Requires Improvement), would have had considerably more bar the 21 LAAs allocated to them. Both of these, along with Barming (Special Measures) with its eight vacancies, have had a difficult history recorded elsewhere in these pages.
Update on Barming Primary School: Although not yet published although you can find it here, Ofsted has Inspected Barming for the first time as an Academy in the Orchard Academy Trust (along with Allington Primary, see below). The school has been found Good, yet another KCC school upgraded after academisation. In this case KCC, after the failed Ofsted, and operating through a rogue officer, had put in a highly controversial Acting Head who had damaged four schools in different capacities at Barming previously, who presiding over three Monitoring Inspections at the school, the third of which identified falling standards.  

Eight schools have 10 or more first choices turned away, headed up by Loose (48) and East Borough (46) the second and third most oversubscribed schools in Kent. Third again is Greenfields with 39, well up on 2018’s 22 and a long way from the days when I advised families how to avoid the school. Then come: St John’s CofE (37); St Michael’s CofE Infants (31); South Borough (21); and Brunswick House (17).

Quite simply, there are not enough primary school places in Maidstone even though Allington (Outstanding in 2008, and not subsequently inspected) took in an additional form of entry to ease the pressure, so that effectively there were no vacancies at all. A few years ago KCC tried to commission a new school in Bearsted, but was overruled by government which approved one for Langley Park, outside town, which did not meet the need at that time, but saw Bearsted children allocated to the school on the other side of town. Then, in 2017 another new school was approved for opening in September 2018, the Bearsted Primary Academy, although as so often the opening date has now slipped to 2020 even  though the need is now.

Other schools with a number of LAAs are Archbishop Courtenay, Special Measures in 2017 (11), , and Tree Topsout of Special Measures in 2015, up to Requires Improvement twice (8), 

In total, there are 82 LAAs across Maidstone, almost 20% of the total for Kent.

Outside town, just three of the 20 schools were significantly oversubscribed: Bredhurst CofE, tucked just in Kent up against the M2 in Gillingham, Ofsted Outstanding in 2011, turning away 33 disappointed first choices. Then come Langley Park (see above) with 14, and Boughton Monchelsea with 10.

Worryingly, there are three schools with five or fewer children offered places on allocation, so they are surely at risk in terms of viability, although all three have a recent Good Ofsted. Leeds & Bromfield and Ulcombe both have a Published Admission Number of 15, and admitted the same number in 2017, although both filled in 2018. The other school is Laddingford St Mary’s CofE, with a PAN of just 13,

The other school with a large number of vacancies is Harrietsham, which doubled in size to an intake of 60 in 2018 and, in spite of its Good Ofsted, has 25 empty places. 

Last modified on Friday, 29 January 2021 22:52


  • Comment Link Friday, 31 May 2019 15:58 posted by Maidstone Primary HT

    As usual, Peter, the only full and accurate picture of Kent primary allocations. An invaluable source of information about what is going on in Maidstone schools. My colleagues and I will mull over this in detail, and it is a lesson for some who deny the realities! Thank you.

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